Mankato police investigating the apparent drowning of girl in Minnesota River

Police found the body of an 8-year-old girl in shallow water after she apparently drowned while swimming with her family Thursday evening. 

The Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office said first responders were called to the Minnesota River at Sibley Park just after 6:00 p.m. Thursday for a possible drowning, according to Capt. Paul Barta. 

Police say a family with four children were swimming in the river near a sandbar. Witnesses told authorities that two children, 8-year-old Willow, and an 11-year-old started struggling to swim in deep water.

A bystander was able to help one of the children get out of the water but was unable to rescue Willow.

Police searched for Willow throughout the night into Friday morning. The Cleveland Fire Department found the missing girl around 8:40 a.m. in shallow water about 5,000 feet downstream from where she was swimming. It appears Willow was caught in a current off a sandbar, according to police. 

The two children were not wearing life jackets at the time of the incident, according to police.

The Sheriff’s Office reminds everyone of the ever-changing depths and currents in our rivers and stresses the importance of those using our waterways, especially children, to wear life jackets, the press release states. 

Agencies assisting in the search efforts include Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office, Brown County Sheriff’s Office, Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Office, Mankato DPS – Police and Fire, Cleveland Fire, Madison Lake Fire, New Ulm Fire, State Patrol Airwing, MN DNR and Mayo Ambulance service.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office will release the cause of death. The incident is still under investigation.